What is it? For beginners, it is great news for local schools. Proposed back in 2012, the idea was a way to give more funds to local schools from the State School Land Trust.
When Utah became a state, the Utah Enabling Act provided funds for the common schools. It said, “That upon the admission of said State into the Union, sections numbered two, sixteen, thirty-two, and thirty-six in every township of said proposed state are hereby granted to said State for the support of common schools” and “That the proceeds of lands herein granted for educational purposes, except as hereinafter otherwise provided, shall constitute a permanent school fund, the interest of which only shall be expended for the support of said schools.” In total, Utah received about 6 million acres of ground to benefit public education in perpetuity. We sometime refer to these proceeds as the Permanent School Fund. The Utah Constitution in Article 10 provides for a State School Fund to preserve the proceeds of money generated from these lands and also makes a distribution of these funds to the local schools. All net proceeds of the trust lands are deposited in the fund. Like an endowment, the principle is never spent; only the interest and dividends are distributed to support public schools. The capital gains are reinvested to grow the fund and its impact on students. The permanent State School Fund has grown from $18 million (1983) to over $2 billion (2015).The School Land Trust Program, established by the legislature in 1999, distributes the “annual dividend” from the permanent State School Fund through school districts to all public schools (including charter schools) in the state. School Community Councils, or Charter Trust Land Councils, each school prepares a plan to address the greatest academic need with the dividend. On average, each Utah student receives approximately $73 a year of this money towards their education. In Garfield County, each school has a locally elected Community Council that oversees the distribution of these funds to their local campus.
So what does Amendment B do? Of notable importance, the change holds the maximum distribution to 4% of the fund per year; note that this year, we only withdrew 2%. This limits the legislature from draining the fund in any given year. It guarantees the fund will be distributed over time such as an endowment. The passage also allows for the distribution of funds for schools based on state statute. Those earnings are distributed to each school in the state to be spent on the school’s greatest academic needs, as determined by a local School Community Council. Current GCSD distribution; Antimony Elem $3,000, Boulder Elem $2,955, BV Elem $36,767, Escalante Elem $24,079, Panguitch Elem $48,363, Panguitch Middle $2,295, BV High $20,837, Escalante High $3,276, Panguitch High $21,943.
—Tracy Davis, Superintendent, Garfield County School District